A study has shed light on the neurocomputational contributions to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in combat veterans. The findings, published in Nature Neuroscience, revealed distinct patterns for how the brain and body respond to learning danger and safety depending on the severity of PTSD symptoms. These findings could help explain why symptoms of PTSD can be severe for some people but not others. The study was funded in part by the National Institute of Mental Health, part of the National Institutes of Health.
“Researchers have thought that the experience of PTSD, in many ways, is an overlearned response to survive a threatening experience,” said Susan Borja, Ph.D., chief of the NIMH Dimensional Traumatic Stress Research Program. “This study clarifies that those who have the most severe symptoms may appear behaviorally similar to those with less severe symptoms, but are responding to cues in subtly different, but profound, ways.”
“It had never occurred to me to do a Ph.D. It’s nothing I’d ever thought of. I didn’t know anyone who’s done a science Ph.D.,” noted Frances Johnson just weeks before matriculating in a neuroscience doctoral program at the University of Pittsburgh. She was just completing a summer stint as a trainee in a neuroscience lab at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Intramural Research Program on the NIH campus in Bethesda, MD.
A U.S. Army veteran and math major at Western Connecticut State University – who at times paid the bills working as a substitute teacher – Johnson says her interest in understanding the brain was sparked by curiosity about the origins of a friend’s post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.
“What caused something like that?” she asked herself. “I think everybody has this kind of curiosity. We have people in our lives, we have family members – especially around mental health.”
First-line treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often require many treatment sessions and delivery by extensively trained therapists. Now, research supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has shown that a shorter therapy may be just as effective as lengthier first-line treatments. The study appeared in the March 2018 issue of JAMA Psychiatry.
First-line treatments for PTSD consist of psychotherapies that focus on exposure and/or cognitive restructuring. One such therapy is cognitive processing therapy (CPT), which is widely acknowledged as an effective treatment for PTSD. Patients being treated with CPT take part in 12 weekly therapy sessions that are delivered by a highly-trained practitioner. During these sessions, patients learn to recognize and challenge dysfunctional thoughts about their traumatic event, themselves, others, and the world. In addition, patients are given homework to complete between sessions.
Four out of five teenage girls who have been sexually assaulted are suffering from crippling mental health problems months after their attack, new research has found.
Victims were found to have anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other serious conditions four to five months after being assaulted.
Experts said the findings confirmed that becoming a victim of abuse in childhood can lead to mental health issues that can persist into adulthood and last a lifetime.
The study involved 137 girls aged between 13 and 17 – average age 15.6 years – who were assaulted between April 2013 and April 2015. It was undertaken by academics from University College London (UCL) and specialist staff from King’s College hospital NHS trust who work in three sexual assault referral centres around the capital, where the victims were treated.
Both civilians and military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) reap long-term benefits from psychotherapies used for short-term treatment, according to a new study from Case Western Reserve University.
The findings suggest effective and lasting approaches for symptoms of PTSD-a debilitating and typically chronic disorder that rarely diminishes spontaneously and is associated with significant distress, impairment and considerable economic costs.
For U.S.-based military veterans alone, lost productivity, health-care and other costs are estimated to be in the billions of dollars, according to recent peer-reviewed research.
Feelings of shame may make the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) more severe in current and former members of the Armed Services.
That is the conclusion of research published in the British Journal of Clinical Psychology by a team led by Dr Katherine C. Cunningham from the Department of Veterans Affairs Mid-Atlantic Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center, Durham, North Carolina.
In the forthcoming article, Dr Cunningham and colleagues say, “The military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in increased awareness of the impact of war on military service members. Many returning service members and veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD, which is associated with poorer physical health, unemployment, legal problems, relationship conflict and reduced quality of life.”
A set of validated, self-reported questions administered early in a soldier’s career could predict mental health problems such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after return from deployment, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Psychology.
The questions assess 14 psychological attributes such as adaptability, coping ability and optimism. They could be used to identify high-risk individuals and provide them with psychological and social resources to help them cope with stressors of deployment including combat trauma and extended separation from friends and family, researchers at Naval Postgraduate School and Research Facilitation Laboratory, USA suggest.
In addition to scoring psychological health attributes before deployment, the researchers also generated an individual, composite risk score for each soldier using baseline psychological attributes and demographic information such as gender, age, race/ethnicity, marital status, education, and military occupation group. They found that out of those whose score classified them as being at highest risk for psychological health disorders (i.e. at the top 5% of the score), 31% screened positive for depression, while 27% screened positive for PTSD after return from deployment.
A new study examines the characteristics of individuals who are most likely to have anxiety concerning threats posed by ISIS.
In the study of 1007 adult Israelis, being female, having a lower socio-economic status, and having elevated levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms were related to ISIS anxiety. Exposure to ISIS in the media and having low resilience were also linked to ISIS anxiety. Finally, the PTD-ISIS relationship was especially pronounced when the mental resources of resilience and optimism were low. Resilienceis defined mainly as a resource aimed at dealing with a current threat, while optimism is defined as a resource related to future outcomes.
Stress, defined broadly, is a well-known risk factor for later alcohol abuse; however, the brain chemistry underlying interactions between stress and alcohol remain largely unknown. Reinforcement of addictive substance use and stress signaling involves common neural systems, including the brain reward center. Better understanding the brain chemistry involved in stress and increased alcohol consumption could have implications for getting to the root of such disorders as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A team led by John Dani, PhD, chair of the department of Neuroscience in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, found that rodents that had been exposed to stress had a weakened alcohol-induced dopamine response and voluntarily drank more alcohol compared to controls. The blunted dopamine signaling to ethanol arose due to changes in the circuitry in the ventral tegmental area, the heart of the brain’s reward system. The team published their findings in Neuron.
Women may be at risk of post-traumatic stress disorder following a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, suggests a new study.
The team behind the research, from Imperial College London, say the findings suggest women should be routinely screened for the condition, and receive specific psychological support following pregnancy loss.
In the study, published in the journal BMJ Open, the team surveyed 113 women who had recently experienced a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.
The majority of the women in the study had suffered a miscarriage in the first three months of pregnancy, while around 20 per cent had suffered an ectopic pregnancy, where the baby starts to grow outside of the womb.